A loyal and trusted friend

    5 March 2015

    Because of some past experiences I always felt guilty and not a very good person although I tried hard to be nice and please people. But God knew what I needed was encouragement, love and acceptance.

    Angela Richens crop

    Back in the 1950s most children went to Sunday school. No doubt parents were keen to have some peace and quiet so, like the rest of my contemporaries, I was duly sent along on a Sunday afternoon. Although I loved hearing the Bible stories and reading my Enid Blyton Bible story book I am not sure exactly what I believed back then.

    It was some 20 years later that I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Looking back, it seems incredible that I could sing the hymns and carols, sit through junior school assemblies and Sunday school lessons and still not understand the message of the Gospel.

    One morning when I was in my 20s, I overheard my sister-in-law Jean talking to her friend about a young, 16-year-old boy called Vincent, who had contracted meningitis which left him blind and severely disabled. I heard Jean tell her friend how Vincent had become a Christian; that he would rather be blind and have his spiritual sight than have his physical sight and not know the Lord. I later came to know him and he certainly was an incredible Christian witness, but at the time I thought, “How ridiculous!"

    Jean and her friend were talking about ‘the Lord’ as if they were talking about a person they knew intimately. I was beginning to see that their faith was more than following a set of rules or an insurance policy for when they died.

    I always found getting to sleep at night difficult. My husband was working nights and in the quiet stillness when the lights had been turned out I would lie in bed filled with worry and fear. I longed for sleep but knew that I would be plagued with nightmares. That night I started getting anxious as usual but then I started to find myself thinking about the conversation that I had overheard. I could not understand how Vincent could possibly feel the way that he did.

    I was confused; I did not want to live but I had a very deep fear of dying and just not existing anymore, or maybe just floating around in darkness. I clearly remember thinking, “I want to have the same faith that this Vincent has.” Then I started thinking about the Bible verses I had read that afternoon. The words “seek and ye shall find” came to mind and then another part of the verse, "ask and ye shall be given”.

    “I need to have Vincent's faith,” I silently uttered as a prayer.

    Looking back I can only describe what happened next as God drawing near to me, the Holy Spirit speaking to me and Jesus coming into my life. The words came to me as if someone was speaking to me in my mind:

    “It isn’t Vincent's faith you need, but Jesus.”

    I didn’t really understand this at the time but now I realise that everyone's faith is unique to them and God wanted mine to be rooted in a personal relationship with Christ rather than that of another person.

    Being honest I can’t say that I ever prayed any deep prayer of repentance or made any major life style changes but often some little negative thought or attitude would come to mind about which I felt uncomfortable and I would ask God to forgive me. It just seemed that my consciousness was heightened.

    Because of some past experiences I always felt guilty and not a very good person, although I tried hard to be nice and please people. But God knew what I needed was encouragement, love and acceptance and I would meditate on verses like, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

    My problems didn’t suddenly vanish and life wasn’t all rosy but now that I was praying and trusting Jesus, situations and events that I would have once called coincidences were happening with a greater frequency.

    I felt He was with me, shielding me, holding me and guiding me and I know it may sound strange but colours all seemed brighter - the sky looked bluer, the grass greener and the autumn leaves redder.

    Things were set to change but thankfully my faith was not to waver.

    Angela Richens worships at St Andrew’s Church in Swindon

    Contemplate now

    What change have you seen which has contrasted for you with Christ’s eternal loyalty?

    How personally do you feel Jesus Christ knows you? Does this match with how well you feel you know Him?

    Acceptance and encouragement nourish us all – pray for them, for you and for others you know.

    Meditate through the day

    God can guide us through a storm or be the anchor that holds us firm.